Hometown Highlight: The Early Learning Centers of Lubbock
As a result of World War II, the Early Learning Centers of Lubbock (ELC) opened its doors to the Lubbock community in 1943. Originally located in east Lubbock and called "Carver Heights" the nonprofit organization set out to help serve low-income families whose mothers were working in the war efforts.
Now 75 years later, times have changed and the organization has grown to include five different locations; however, their mission remains the same: "educating and nurturing young children and their families for successful futures."
Executive Director Lena Scaff has been with ELC for more than 27 years and can attest to the positive impact the organization has had in the Lubbock community.
"Child care is not baby-sitting," Scaff said. "That’s a huge misconception that a lot of people have. It takes a lot of work and forward thinking and planning."
The center, which provides programs for children ages birth to predominantly 4 years old, focuses on preparing children for kindergarten to ensure they enter the school system on an even playing field. This includes teaching the children the alphabet - how to write the alphabet and the letters’ sounds – and 75 site words to improve language and literacy skills, some basic math and science skills and teaching socialization skills.
By using developmental standards, the ELC is able to work closely with Early Childhood Intervention to keep the children on track for success. If a child appears to be behind in an area, Early Childhood Intervention is able to conduct an assessment and provide therapy for the child – often times within the ELC location.
"Our focus is to help children who might not otherwise start on an even footing in kindergarten and make sure they are developmentally ready and on target when they go to school," Scaff said. "If they’re behind where they should be, we want to help them get caught back up, because if they start off developmentally on target when they enter kindergarten, they aren’t as likely to get behind as they go into older grades."
The organization’s recent 2018 Outcome Measurements reports that 2 year olds who have been in the program 18 months or longer show signs of greater mastering of tasks and skills over those who have been in ELC for six months or less. Scaff said she believes this is largely in part to the teaching repetition they are able to provide to the children and is a result of their lesson plans which are designed to help children meet their age’s development goals.
With four public locations, they have one center located in Mathews Alternative High School which serves Lubbock Independent School District students who have children. Scaff said this provides LISD students with a safe, affordable childcare option so that they can continue their education and graduate or earn their GED. In addition, as a United Way agency the ELC is able to provide childcare based on the families’ household income instead of a flat fee.